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Top teacher gifts

If you're a parent looking for the perfect gift for that perfect teacher, here's a hint: Put down that "World's Greatest Teacher" mug. Chances are your child's teacher has had his or her fill of "No. 1 Teacher" paraphernalia.

In fact, the overwhelming majority of teachers polled for this article admit (on condition of complete anonymity) they'd prefer nothing over a trite knick-knack. Not that they're ungrateful -- as one says, "I'm quite touched by whatever I get" -- it's just that after a year or two of receiving traditional teacher fare, they'd rather receive something more useful.

Appropriate giving
Still, the desire to give a tangible present prevails. "I like the gift-giving," says one parent. "It's the only time of year we make a real effort to say, 'thank you.' I think it's important."

Most parents like the 'thank you' part, however, many admit they'd be relieved if schools prohibited gift-giving. One mother of three finds it especially taxing. "There's too much pressure to get the right gift and [it's] too expensive."

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So what constitutes the "right" gift? According to Louise Fox, Canada's etiquette expert and host of MannersTV.com, "The gift should always be appropriate to the level of the relationship. It should never be anything really personal. The idea is to reflect your appreciation in a respectful way."

One teacher who unwrapped a pair of lace underpants in front of a student's mother couldn't agree more. Fox calls the underwear a no-no. "Always err on the side of caution: If you question whether or not you should give something, don't."

Teachers' favourites
Now that racy underpants and bubble bath are off your list -- as one teacher puts it: "I don't want to think of my students in either circumstance" -- what should you buy? Here's what the teachers had to say:

  • Gift cards are the No. 1 choice: You can't go wrong with Starbucks or Tim Hortons, but many teachers also appreciate gift cards for local cafes, book stores or movie theatres.
  • A seasonal plant: One parent cultivates amaryllis bulbs to bloom for the holidays. She buys festive pots at the dollar store for a low-cost, high-impact effort.
  • Classroom necessities: Elementary teachers spend a lot of their own money on the classroom, so ease the burden with a puzzle, game or book. Collaborate with other parents for big-ticket items, such as a rug.
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-- Posted December 17, 2010
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